Breast Cancer Survivors May Age More Quickly Than Cancer-free Women

Breast Cancer

According to a recent study by National Institutes of Health researchers and their partners, women who have been diagnosed with and treated for breast cancer age more biologically than those who don’t have the disease. While surgery did not demonstrate a link with biological ageing in women with breast cancer, radiation therapy showed the strongest association with quicker biological ageing. This finding implies that the ageing effect is not caused by cancer development.

“Of the three treatment classes we looked at, radiation therapy had the strongest associations with the biologic age measures assessed in the study,” noted Jack Taylor, M.D., Ph.D., the senior author on the paper who is an Emeritus Scientist at NIEHS. “The increases can be detected years after treatment.”

Contrary to chronological age, biological age is a reflection of the health of a person’s cells and tissues. The researchers examined 417 women whose blood was drawn twice, roughly eight years apart, to calculate their biological ages. Women who had breast cancer at the time of the study were chosen in almost half the cases. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), a division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is the project’s principal investigator. Its goal is to find environmental risk factors for breast cancer risk and other health disorders.

To ascertain if a woman’s biological age changed between the two time points, the researchers employed three different, well-established “methylation clocks”. The clocks track methylation changes, which are regularly occurring chemical alterations to a person’s DNA. The likelihood of getting an age-related disease can be determined by minute differences in methylation patterns.

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